Cardinals' GM Mozeliak fires back at flippant fan online
By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Jan. 22 2009
What happens when a baseball general manager enters the Internet jungle?
Debating topics on the online chats and forums can be a full-contact sport.
I should know; I've been hosting "Bernie's Press Box" on STLtoday.com for
nearly 10 years. And it can get rough. We keep it civil on my forum, and I
appreciate exchanging comments with about 90 percent of the regulars who visit.
And they regularly educate and enlighten me. We've developed a good online
community. But the hack-a-Shaq strategy does come into play at times. If I'm
fouled, I'll take the free throws and keep hanging in there. But on the other
end, I also contest layups. No freebies. I'll do what I have to do. Which
usually means zinging an insult right back.
Hard fouls? Sure. This ain't supposed to be something out of Miss Manners. If
you're going to set up shop on the Internet to truly interact with readers,
then you should try to keep it real, and spontaneous. And sports fans like to
bust on each other. It's no worse than the discourse we have in our culture
over politics and religion.
Besides, what's the point of offering vanilla, homogenized answers? If that's
the plan, just stay up in the ivory tower where it's safe, where you can look
down on everyone, where you can avoid being held accountable.
But I'm just a lowly sportswriter.
I never claimed to have any class.
In the Internet jungle, my No. 1 law is to treat others as they treat you. If
you want to be friendly, I can do that. If you want to be rough, then let's go.
But what happens if a GM comes onto the website and is dissed by a critic?
In John Mozeliak's case, he cracked back.
Wednesday, the Cardinals GM hosted an online chat at STLtoday.com. He does this
several times a year, and I admire that. You don't see many GMs in the four
major sports leagues step up to give fans unrestricted access on the Internet,
where the questions come from anonymous individuals. It's easy to take free
shots at the GM of the Cardinals when you're hiding behind the cover of
Mozeliak doesn't shield himself; he insists that tough questions be included.
If they're asked in a reasonably civil way, he'll answer in the same manner.
But from where I sit, if someone is determined to be rude to Mozeliak just for
the sake of being boorish, then Mozeliak has no obligation to accept that.
When this happened Wednesday, Mozeliak went with the old-fashioned knockdown
A questioner — the intelligently named I Hate Bill DeWitt!! — crowded
Mozeliak's plate with this one:
"Please describe what it's like living in your little land of make believe
where you honestly believe that Cardinal fans should be excited about this
team. If you wouldn't mind, go into details, about how in Mo's world people are
celebrating three horrible new lefty relievers, and the signing of our awesome
new .213 hitting shortstop."
OK, so if you're Mozeliak, how do you handle this?
He could have been a phony, giving a saccharine answer straight from Eddie
Haskell on the old "Leave It to Beaver" TV show.
Instead, Mozeliak reacted by throwing one high and tight.
Using some acceptable chat room shorthand, he wrote:
"First, I rather live in my world then yours ... it is sunny out today? No
you're right, it is 30 something degrees, my girl friend dumped me, and my car
won't start. First, it is not (that) we stink (unless you ask yourself these
questions in the mirror). We make decisions based on scouts, stats, and other
information. If we thought (shortstop Khalil) Greene was going to hit .213 we
would not, I repeat, not make the deal. Go back to your world, and I hope by
midsummer you're ready to come out for air."
I know some of you will disapprove of Mozeliak's tone.
The GM of the Cardinals should be a gentleman at all times, right?
Heck, no. I thought his response was hilarious and appropriate. It showed me
that he was a human being and not some politically correct automaton. Besides,
why should Mozeliak take gratuitous shots from someone hiding behind a fake
As custom, Mozeliak tries to answer to anyone who is hacked off at ownership's
policies on payroll and trades. You may not like the way Mozeliak does his job,
and you may not approve of his answers, but he does not hide. He answers
reporters' calls, he does these chats, he's frequently on radio or TV. He puts
up with a lot. It's his job.
That said, we must ask: When Mozeliak makes himself available, what are the
boundaries? It's easy to express dissent and ask challenging questions without
being rude. But the Internet — because it ensures that protection of anonymity
— emboldens the occasional bonehead to try to embarrass the GM instead of
asking a pointed, straight-up question.
This time, when a pretend tough guy got in Mozeliak's face, the GM rightfully
observed the laws of the Internet jungle: He put the chump in his place.